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Thread: Dean Kamen's House

  1. #1

    Dean Kamen's House

    Peeping Into Kamen's House
    The Home of Segway's Inventor Is as Wild as His Inventions

    By Rick Lockridge, Tech Live New York bureau chief

    July 31 - If you had more money than you could ever spend and owned an entire mountaintop with sweeping views of New Hampshire, what kind of house would you build there?

    • Dean Kamen's Model of the Universe
    • Meet Dean KamenÂ*If you're a guy, you'd probably build a house a lot like the one Dean Kamen built: massive, masculine, and full of a big boy's favorite toys - a Hummer, a Porsche, two helicopters, a massive steam engine, and so on.

    "I was thinking about all the neat things you could put in a house if you were a kid and weren't encumbered by the rules of good judgment," said Kamen. "And I decided when I built my house, it's my house, and I don't need to have good judgment!" he laughed.

    The 32,000 square foot mansion, which Kamen calls "Westwind," has a bit of ski lodge feel to it. From the outside, there's nothing too extraordinary about the architecture, although you do notice a lack of right angles. The house is built around a soaring, hexagonal vaulted living room with a cupola - Kamen's crow's nest - high above.

    "I wanted the cupola, but I didn't want any of the supports for it to be visible from inside the house," said Kamen, who spent "seven or eight years" designing Westwind on a CAD system he taught himself to use. "So I put a compression ring around the top of the hexagon, and built a hidden spiral staircase in this masonry wall that's part of the chimney."

    Amenities Galore

    It's just one of the hidden staircases in Kamen's house. There's another just off the kitchen, concealed by a wall of fake cabinetry.

    "Very useful when you want to get from the bedroom to the kitchen in the middle of the night," he noted.

    There's also a 100-year-old, hand-operated elevator straight out of the movie The Sting. But Kamen doesn't often use it and calls himself "the world's worst elevator operator."

    Just past the huge garage - where Kamen's Hummer and Porsche reside - is the helicopter bay. There, Kamen keeps his two Enstrom helicopters: a 3-seat piston-engine model, and a 5-seat jet-powered 'copter.

    "I think Enstrom makes the finest, safest, and coolest helicopters in the world," said Kamen, who also owns and pilots a Citation jet. The chopper bay features a motorized, folding glass door that rises out of the way in 21 quiet seconds.

    "In the winter," Kamen said, "The sunlight from the south hits the floor of this bay, which is painted white, and reflects upward, heating this garage." Does any detail escape Kamen's notice?

    On the other side of the house, there's a large indoor swimming pool complex with - of course - a motorized cover for the pool. Just beyond the pool, there's a championship-grade tennis court. And beyond that is a lighted softball diamond, with a perfectly manicured grass infield.

    "I got tired of seeing all my smart guys leave [work] at 5 p.m. to play ball in the autumn when it starts getting dark early," Kamen said. "Besides, a lot of municipalities don't have fields of this quality, or you can't reserve them when you need them, so I wanted to make one available."

    Play Time

    Back inside the house, Kamen takes our TV crew on a tour of his fully outfitted electrical shop, which is stocked floor-to-ceiling with tools and parts, and the adjoining mechanical shop, full of industrial grade metal lathes and precision grinders. Despite all the tools, however, there is not a speck of dust nor a smudge of machine oil to be seen anywhere.

    The shop looks more like a medium-sized factory than a hobbyist's basement, but Kamen insists he's just a dabbler.

    "I have people who work for me who are true artists with tools like these," he said. "Compared to them, I'm a butcher." But it's not true.

    Kamen's artistry is evident in the clocks that he makes for himself and others. One, a tall steel and acrylic model with a long pendulum, marks time quietly in the corner of his dining room. The handmade gears are exposed, and the design is intricate and whimsical. "Making clocks is one way I relax," he said.

    Above the workshops is a level containing the game room, with its billiard table and neon signs, and a small wood-paneled library. It's also the level where you find the massive, foyer-filling steam engine that Kamen is in the process of transforming into what he calls "the largest Stirling cycle engine the world has ever seen."

    A Stirling engine, first conceived more than a century ago, is a non-polluting engine that can run on many types of fuel. No commercially viable model for home use has ever been developed. And Kamen and his employees hope to be the first to do it.

    "When we finish it, [the engine] will produce electricity for the house," he said. He already produces some of his own juice with a tall wind turbine just north of the house. And he heats and cools Westwind with water that circulates to and from a 3,000,000 gallon underground storage tank.

    Kamen has brought his personal Segway Human Transporter home from work with him on this particular day, and riding it around his home gives him a chance to show off the wide hallways, which are lined with artwork by his father, an accomplished artist and illustrator who once worked for Mad Magazine.

    "People told me these wide hallways were a kind of waste of space," Kamen said, "but I don't think of them as hallways. I think of them as display areas."

    Kid at Heart

    Kamen summed up his feelings about the home he had built for himself.

    "As a kid," he said, "You think: 'If I could design a house, I would design a much more fun house than my parents.' And then practicality wins, and you grow up, and you end up in a house like everyone else's. But I thought: 'This is my house, I can do what I want.' So I have the secret passages, I have the machine shop in the house, I have the helicopters in the house!

    "I don't bother anybody else up here," he said. "It's just a fun place to be."

  2. #2

    More about Dean

    But make no mistake: Kamen expects his employees to be as dedicated to Deka as he is.

    "Family is most important, and I tell everyone they have to focus on that. I tell them that Deka's gotta be No. 2 -- and there is no No. 3," he said with a laugh. "If they would really rather be off doing some hobby instead of working with me, then that's what they should be doing for a living, because life is too short. But if that's the case, they shouldn't be working here, because their commitment isn't at the right level."

  3. #3
    we need to find a way to get this guy and his attitude working on a cure for spinal cord injury.

  4. #4
    Dean Kamen is very interested in spinal cord injury. I have talked to him about it. It would indeed be great, wouldn't it? Wise.

  5. #5
    Dr. Young, I've written Dean Kamen on more than one occasion but have never gotten a response. You've indicated that he has an interest in sci research. In my mind, he and his team could probably come up with an implantable device, exercise (walking) equipment, etc.

    Any ideas on how to get his attention?

    Onward and Upward!

  6. #6
    Chris, I think that we have already gotten his attention. He developed the IBOT and is working on setting up the Segway so that can be used by paraplegics. He is not a man to state his ambitions and let them hang out in the air without a delivery plan. Everything that I know about him indicates that he does not engage in announcements of half-way plans. There may have been a stage in his life when he felt the need for this but I believe that he will not announce something until it is real and deliverable. I think that I understand what he feels about this issue. Believe me, if he succeeds, we will all hear about it, probably first on this site. Wise.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator Sue Pendleton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Wisconsin USA
    A hummer? I hope someone meant a Hum-Vee. This is a family site.

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